Intensifying Your Yoga Practice
A more intense yoga practice can give you a little more sweat, more strengthening, and a sense ...
For a lot of people, self-care seems indulgent and selfish. Life is busy, and adding self-care can feel like one more item added to your never-ending to-do list. What if we reframed our narrative and perception around self-care? It is the easiest way to build healthy habits, improve the quality of your life, enhance your wellbeing, and express self-love. We can’t help or truly care for others if we haven’t made time to nourish our own mind, body, and soul.
Ayurveda, considered the oldest healing science by many scholars, has a whole list of self-care tips that can be built into your day. It originated over 5,000 years ago in India. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “the science of life.” It enables one to understand how to create balance in the mind, body, and consciousness based on one’s own individual constitution.
I’ve crafted five Ayurvedic self-care tips based on this knowledge for you to try, and have ensured that these suggestions can be done at different times of day to make the changes more sustainable.
People often ask why I wake up between 4-4:30 a.m. every morning. I have always been a morning person, and it feels intuitively in sync with what my mind and body needs. Additionally, Ayurveda recommends waking up one hour and 36 minutes before sunrise during the pre-dawn hours, known in Sanskrit as the brahma-muhurta. This time of day is thought of as the most peaceful time for meditation, spiritual enrichment, and creative activities.
This is my favorite time of the day to write—both my mind and the atmosphere feel calm. There is clarity of thought, no interruptions, and no daily distractions. One of the classical texts in Ayurveda, Ashtanga Hridayam, says that waking up during brahma-muhurta may increase one’s lifespan and help avoid diseases.
This is one of the first few things I do when I wake up. Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice that involves the swishing of oil in the mouth—around the teeth, gums, and cheeks—for oral and systemic health benefits. The swishing is done for a specific period of time, after which you spit out the oil. Charaka Samhita, another treatise in Ayurveda, discusses oil pulling in detail and refers to it as gandusha.
What are the benefits of oil pulling? Good oral hygiene. Overall, the gandusha oil kills bacteria in the mouth. It’s said to prevent dental decay, halitosis, bleeding gums, and cracked lips. Traditionally, sesame seed oil is used because it has several medicinal properties and offers desirable health benefits. It also strengthens teeth and gums. The action of oil pulling or the swishing of oil in the mouth activates enzymes and draws toxins out of blood. It’s also said to improve appetite.
Ayurveda will remind you to eat according to your dosha—freshly prepared, warm, nourishing meals cooked at home. You might think that ordering takeout every night meets most of the criteria for nourishing food. But the answer is no—cooking at home is the highest form of self-care.
Additionally, one of the keys to proper digestion is to eat appropriately according to the season. I don’t care how hygienic or delicious your neighborhood deli or restaurant is… their food can’t match what you’d make at home. I don’t mean in terms of taste, necessarily. The chef’s emotions play a huge role in the quality of the food they serve. When was the food cooked, how was it prepared, and do they honor food compatibility?
At home, you can use seasonal spices to enhance your digestion. You can adjust flavors and honor the six Ayurvedic tastes (sweet, salty, sour, spicy, bitter, and astringent). You can choose to create meals best fit for your specific dosha. Cooking and eating at home make you more mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Think better: health, budget, ingredients, variety, energy, and sleep.
Several studies prove yoga’s benefits for navigating arthritis, osteopenia, balance issues, oncology, women’s health, and chronic pain. We all know that yoga also improves the following: heart health, flexibility, digestion, sleep, mood, muscle strength, bone health, posture, energy, and stress management. I would also like to point out that no other form of exercise or movement offers you relaxation and meditation built-in. Yes, with our cardio we get our heart rate up, burn calories, and sweat it out, but can you honestly tell me that any other form of movement is equal parts energizing and meditative?
Padabhyanga is an Ayurvedic self-care technique that’s considered the mother of all therapies. “Pada” in Sanskrit means “foot,” and “abhyanga” refers to massaging with warm, herbal, and medicated oils. Think about it—our feet connect our body with the earth. Padabhyanga is a soothing and calming massage to honor the feet. It’s recommended on a daily basis before going to bed.
Massage the soles of your feet with warm sesame oil is revered in Ayurveda and has several healing benefits. Sesame oil is also a powerful antioxidant and is easily absorbed by the skin. Coconut oil is a good alternative during hot days, as it is an oil with cooling properties. Padabhyanga relieves foot pain, lowers anxiety, activates the immune system, reduces inflammation, stimulates the flow of energy, and lessens fatigue. But avoid this therapy if you have indigestion, cold, fever, circulatory disorder of the lower limbs, thrombosis, or an abnormal skin condition.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
Trying yoga as self-care? Explore these yoga poses for digestion.
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